Pop Culture Fix: And Now There’s Gay Icon/Homophobic Rudolph Discourse

It started snowing on my Animal Crossing island this weekend! I think I might get a Christmas tree this week! (On my island; we can’t have a Christmas tree IRL because we have four entire cats.) And here’s your Monday Pop Culture Fix.


+ If the Happiest Season discourse on Twitter didn’t burn you out about talking about holiday movies for the rest of the year, pals, do I have a treat for you. Elite cultural critic Caitlin Flanagan has argued in The Atlantic that the classic stop-motion Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer of the early ’60s is a trauma bomb we should never watch again and never show today’s kids! Also, she says, it’s homophobic!

We are supposed to understand that blond, dreamy-eyed Hermey wants to be a dentist, not a toy maker. (What he really wants to do, in my opinion, is join the drama club, but that might have been too much for NBC.) Foreman Elf—who, come the revolution, will not be dealt with kindly—humiliates him repeatedly. When Hermey tells him, tentatively, that he doesn’t want to make toys, Foreman Elf repeats the phrase in the “sissy” voice that has haunted gay boys down through the ages. “Shame on you!” cry the other elves, further demoralizing Hermey.

But over at The Nation, other elite critic Jeet Heer disagrees! “Don’t cancel Rudolph,” Jeet pleads!

This is a classic critical misreading whereby depicting an injustice is the same as giving sanction to it. By this logic, Moby-Dick promotes violence toward animals and Othello is a license for spouse-killing. In fact, several generation of queer children, and outsiders of all stripes, have felt an affinity for Rudolph because he learns to accept his difference and not yield to social pressure. Along the way, he forms a fellowship with other outsiders and nonconformists… On an emotional level, the story doesn’t affirm social norms but rather shows the superiority of self-acceptance and appreciation of difference.

And you thought lesbians were the only ones who could talk a holiday movie into the ground!

+ Tegan and Sara on their jingle-gay tune in Happiest Season

+ Margaret Cho says queer comedians should seize this moment.

+ Captain Jack Harkness will be back for Doctor Who‘s New Year’s Day special this year.

+ Lily Singh on the pressures of representing minority communities.

+ Pop! has pulled the plug on One Day at a Timeand Isabella Gomez has already signed on to headline HBO Max’s Head of the Class reboot.

+ Is queer cinema still too straight?

+ Kelly Clarkson forced Steve Kornacki to confront the #chartthrob thirst tweets about his election coverage on MSNBC.

+ Carrie Brownstein is writing and directing a Heart biopic.

+ Is this the gayest yuletide yet?

+ Cartoon Network is launching a Black In Animation awards show.

+ I, too, would die for Animal Crossing‘s new puppies.

Heather Hogan is an Autostraddle senior writer who lives in New York City with her partner, Stacy, and their cackle of rescued pets. She's a member of the Television Critics Association, the Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer critic. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Heather has written 1145 articles for us.

14 Comments

  1. Let it be known that Hermey is the ONLY ‘Boy’ Elf with animated/constructed Hair, while all the others are bald or do not have blonde hair. All the while, all the ‘girl’ elves have the same kind of hair he does.

    Headcanon: Hermey is an AFAB FTM.

    On a more practical note: He’s probably just human, as he is the only elf with human ears (Will Ferrel ELF-esque narrative)

      • Oh, someone on this site doesn’t like a show that masquerades as progressive but valorizes the war American militarism to the point where the show uncritically portrays parents deciding to go to Afghanistan “to protect their family” as a noble decision? That’s so strange.

        Also, the jokes are bad.

          • the character is always saying things about social justice and activism that are immediately followed by a laugh. their earnestness and desire to do good are the butt of the joke for the heterosexual audience. for instance, when elena and her partner practice affirmative consent with handholding and kissing, there’s a laugh track response; it’s considered laughable to ask for consent for these things. they’re just teens figuring it out, but we’re supposed to laugh at them! additionally, the grandmother character is always saying nasty things about elena just out of earshot. we’re supposed to view elena as someone who’s just not to most people’s tastes because her views are so radical and she just never gets it right. it’s not uncommon for middle-of-the-road sitcoms to portray teenage girls with such hostility–the most classic example would be the hated daughter on family guy. but it does upset me to see AS fawning all over a show that is so obviously hostile to the idea of a young lesbian activist.

      • Woah. There’s been some weird vibes lately from the A/S rhetoric, content, and choices of how things are edited and presented, but this is a comments section, no? What’s the point of having it if one of the Big A/S Editors shows up to shut stuff down?

        I’ve been up and down with ODAAT, but this season was IMO not super funny, and some of the actors seemed to really be phoning it in. And yeah, it’s a little reductive – there’s a lot of other plotlines they could’ve examined re: Latinx people not being a monolith. Dunno. Lots of series don’t last more than 3 seasons, and burn out – maybe it’s just not super great, representation aside.

        anyway, sort of disappointed with certain editorial choices around here lately, especially given my financial involvement. :(

        • being told i don’t belong here because i don’t like a cartoonish multicam sitcom about the noble heroism of the american military didn’t actually surprise me because i already know that AS gets so single-minded about its copaganda faves, but it did make me wish AS were a better site. unfortunately, it isn’t

          • Your first comment was indistinguishable from any common troll coming here to put down a queer Latinx show, so acting now like you’re being victimized for your views is disingenuous.

            While you and the others agreeing with you make some valid citiques, you are doing that thing where you think your opinion of a show is more important than all the other people who have felt seen and represented by it in a way they never have been before. You think the flaws you personally perceive mean that the whole thing is garbage and deserves to be canceled. You have your own interpretation of the show and that’s fine, but other people love it and feel connected to it, and frankly your attitude is shitty even if your points are worth being discussed. Perfect representation in media doesn’t exist, so if we cancel everything that isn’t perfect, we get nothing. Try to have some compassion for the people who care about this show being lost. We are all supposed to be on the same side here.

  2. Loved the Steve Kornacki piece – especially his rundown of the Thanksgiving pie race on his big board. Definitely here for a smart, nerdy queer getting his moment in the spotlight.

    Haven’t read either elite take on Rudolph. I’m mostly meh on Rudolph – of the big 3 classic Christmas specials I grew up with, I think it’s the least well-thought out. But I have a soft spot for it and I am definitely team “portraying something isn’t the same as endorsing it”.

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